An annulment is an alternative to divorce that will also terminate a marriage. The difference between annulment and divorce is that an annulled marriage is void. A void marriage never legally existed. Annulment is available in very limited circumstances.
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Marriages between family members, called incestuous, must be annulled. Even if both spouses consented the marriage, the marriage was illegal from the time it took place and cannot continue to exist. Incestuous marriages involve spouses who are more closely related than second cousins.
A marriage is also illegal if one spouse was already married when the marriage took place. Bigamy voids the second marriage and it can be annulled as though it never existed.
If one spouse has a physical impotency making him unable to have intercourse to consummate the marriage, the marriage can be annulled.
A minor who is 17 years old or younger must obtain consent before getting married. A court must approve the marriage involving a spouse younger than 16 and a parent must consent to a marriage involving a 16 or 17 year old. Without the necessary consent, a marriage involving an underage spouse is void and must be annulled.
A marriage may also be annulled if one spouse suffered from a mental defect and was unable to consent to the marriage when it took place.
Lack of consent is also a ground for an annulment if one or both of the spouses were intoxicated or using drugs at the time of the marriage. However, the intoxication must be severe enough to inhibit the spouses’ ability to understand their actions in getting married.